FF Daily #230: Better is possible. You need diligence, not genius

November 16, 2020: Atul Gawande on rising above your constraints; BigBasket, Cyble & Data Breach; How Delhi’s The Bookshop found a suitable strategy

Founding Fuel

[Image by marionbrun from Pixabay]

Good morning!

Hope you had a fantastic Diwali weekend. In Better: A Surgeon’s Notes On Performance, Atul Gawande shares his experience spending some time at a hospital as a young surgeon. 

He writes, “I had gone there thinking that, as an American-trained surgeon, I might have a thing or two I could teach them. But the abilities of an average Indian surgeon outstripped those of any Western surgeon I know. ‘What is your preferred technique for removing bladder stones?’ one surgeon in the city of Nagpur asked me. ‘My technique is to call a urologist,’ I said. On rounds in Nanded with a staff surgeon one afternoon, I saw patients he’d successfully treated for prostate obstruction, diverticulitis of the colon, a tubercular abscess of the chest, a groin hernia, a thyroid goiter, gallbladder disease, a liver cyst, appendicitis, a staghorn stone in the kidney, and a cancer of the right hand—as well as an infant boy born without an anus in whom he’d done a perfect reconstruction. Using just textbooks and advice from one another, the surgeons at this ordinary district hospital in India had developed an astonishing range of expertise.

“What explains this? There was much the surgeons had no control over: the overwhelming flow of patients, the poverty, the lack of supplies. But where they had control—their skills, for example—these doctors sought betterment. They understood themselves to be part of a larger world of medical knowledge and accomplishment. Moreover, they believed they could measure up in it. This was partly, I think, a function of the Nanded surgeons’ camaraderie as a group. Each day I was there, the surgeons found time between cases to take a brief late-afternoon break at a café across the street from the hospital. For fifteen or thirty minutes, they drank chai and swapped stories about their cases of the day—what they had done and how. Just this interaction seemed to prod them to aim higher than merely getting through the day. They came to feel they could do anything they set their minds to. Indeed, they believed not only that they were part of the larger world but also that they could contribute to it.”

A few paragraphs down in the chapter, he captures his learnings, and thinking about it we realise that it’s not just about surgery. It’s about life. 

Gawande writes, “True success in medicine is not easy. It requires will, attention to detail, and creativity. But the lesson I took from India was that it is possible anywhere and by anyone. I can imagine few places with more difficult conditions. Yet astonishing successes could be found. And each one began, I noticed, remarkably simply: with a readiness to recognize problems and a determination to remedy them. Arriving at meaningful solutions is an inevitably slow and difficult process. Nonetheless, what I saw was: better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.“

In this issue

  • BigBasket, Cyble & Data Breach: A cautionary tale
  • A suitable strategy
  • A brief history of the United States

Have a fantastic week ahead!

FF Exclusive: BigBasket, Cyble & Data Breach: A cautionary tale

It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Imagine you are running a business that is having a dream run at the height of the pandemic. Orders are pouring in. Customers send you ‘thank you’ notes. One of the biggest and most respected conglomerates wants to acquire you—the exit you were hoping for when you started up. And suddenly, you hear that there has been a data breach, and personal data of thousands of your customers are in the dark web. What would you do? 

That’s exactly what happened to Big Basket. It has been widely reported. But, you haven’t read the full story yet. Charles Assisi has pieced it together talking to company insiders, listening to cybersecurity experts and looking at the FIR filed by BigBasket.  

Here’s an extract from the story.

“Conversations with informed sources in the community suggest that [CEO Hari] Menon at BigBasket and [Vijay Shekhar] Sharma at Paytm are furious at how things have panned out until now. And that between the both of them, they are at work to convince other entities to form a coalition and to bring Beenu Arora and Cyble down. And to show others in the Indian ecosystem how it can be done, much like Menon at BigBasket, Sharma at Paytm Mall shot off a legal notice.

“Their narrative is that if you don’t give in to someone attempting to hold you hostage, entities such as Cyble and people such as Beenu Arora who run it will be run aground.

“But, here’s the issue: Why did Menon and Sharma have to go to the police against Arora or threaten legal action against Cyble? Because technically, Cyble has done nothing illegal. It discovered breaches at BigBasket and Paytm Mall, informed the management, and placed the information in the public domain.

“If anything, customer data has been compromised and the onus is on entities such as BigBasket and Paytm to let people know about it.”

Dig Deeper

A suitable strategy

In the latest essay in Scroll’s series on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on publishing, Mahika Chaturvedi and Sonal Narain of The Bookshop, Delhi, share what they did to keep the business going during the pandemic. Here’s an example.

They write: “In July, when the Netflix series of A Suitable Boy was announced, we requested Vikram Seth’s publisher, Aleph Book Company, to convince the elusive writer to sign copies of the book for us. Upon the release of Azadi, her collection of essays, Arundhati Roy signed copies for us in September. Authors like Sudhanva Deshpande and Ira Mukhoty have been kind enough to visit and sign their books for us as well, all during the lockdown. Since then, we have been working on a series of curated reading lists with authors like Mahesh Rao, Richa Kaul Padte, and Karuna Ezara Parekh, who have generously shared their favourite reads with us so we can source a whole new bunch of books for our readers.

“The fact is, people in India read. And they read voraciously. Our entire work ethic relies on the love for books that runs through the people of this country. Our survival depends on it. And if there’s anything we’ve learned in our experience as booksellers this year, it is that the community of readers reciprocates loyalty and sincerity.”

Dig Deeper

A brief history of the United States

(Via WhatsApp)

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And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

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About the author

Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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